Although Alvaro Bautista and crew chief Antonio Jimenez took no points home from the Qatar Grand Prix, both head to Austin with optimism after the Spaniard came within two laps of a Round 1 podium finish.
Bautista looked strong across the entire Losail weekend, qualifying an impressive second on the grid with the Factory Option Honda satellite bike. He would find himself challenging for a top three placing for the entire race, until losing control at Turn 2 on the 21st and penultimate lap of the Grand Prix.
“I’m okay – I don’t have an injury,” Bautista confirmed after the race. “The crash was strange. I entered Turn 2 more or less normally, on the brakes a bit, but suddenly lost the front tire. I had many, many problems with the brakes during the race; it was very irregular and no consistency. I don’t know if the brakes were the reason for the crash but, anyway, that was my race and it was a big disappointment for me.”
The result may not have gone his way, but Bautista was particularly pleased to have been running amongst the likes of Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Stefan Bradl for much of the race. Crew chief Antonio Jimenez points out that especially effective preseason planning was key to a strong start to the season.
“In this first Grand Prix of the year we’ve been able to take advantage of the good things that had emerged during the winter testing, also improving some other aspects at the same time,” Jimenez explains, with Bautista’s best premier class season-opening race result to date remaining his sixth place finish of Qatar last year.
“Since the first free practice session Alvaro felt at ease; in qualifying we missed the pole position by a few thousandths and we were ready to do a good race, thanks to a very consistent bike, even with regard to the use of the tires. On Sunday we proved it: Alvaro, despite losing some positions at the start, managed to recover and place himself in the leading group. We couldn’t finish the race, but we leave Qatar with a good feeling, knowing that we have a winning package: we have battled with the best and we have made the most of the new Bridgestone tires, so I think we can also be competitive in the next Grand Prix.”
Jimenez went on to point out the particularly strong points of Bautista’s RC213V:
“We’re good with electronics, both in terms of power delivery and engine braking, but I would say that the biggest step forward has been done on the suspension side. This is our third year with Showa and we are reaping the fruits of the excellent work done in the first two seasons together. Compared to the end of 2013, we have made a further step ahead with the introduction of the new rear shock, at the last Sepang test. During this race we only suffered a slight problem with the brakes, which had never occurred in practice; we will work with Nissin to improve that.
“Finally, the fuel consumption: we were able to manage really well the 20 liters of fuel by working on engine mapping, limiting the sliding of the rear wheel. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish the race, but two laps from the end the situation was under control. We are satisfied and having shown a good performance on a track traditionally difficult for us is not a coincidence.”
Qatar also yielded more positively for Gresini, as rider Scott Redding finished seventh on the team’s Open bike. Both riders now move on to Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, where Bautista finished eighth in the first MotoGP race there in 2013.Alvaro Bautista, MotoGP, Qatar